Last month I had the pleasure of co-leading a session at the BUILD 2022 Virtual Conference: Building Systems, Improving Quality, Advancing Equity.

It was a joy to participate en una charla informal, a coffee talk, with my good friend, and colleague Miriam Calderon. We discussed and unpacked the strength and determination required to lift ourselves, our families, and our communities up in the unforgiving world of policy and politics.

BUILD has been a leader in providing spaces and opportunities for Latine professionals and leaders in the early childhood space to come together both informally and formally to talk and hear about what the Latine community wants and needs.

The Latine community is strong. We know that across this country it is Latinos and Latinas who pick, cook and serve our food, clean our houses and hotel rooms, care for our children, elderly and sick and are part of the backbone of the economy in countless ways.

As I joined with other Latine leaders throughout the week at BUILD and listened to their stories, I was stuck that today in 2022, many still talked about “imposter syndrome”, including me. I have had the privilege and opportunity to sit at many tables at the local, state, and national level but I am sure when I opened my mouth to share a recommendation or idea, there was some eye rolling in the room.

At Start Early, we share a commitment to racial equity and have been working diligently to provide individual staff with the support they need and want to grow and contribute to the early childhood field. For my part, I will be leading and providing a space for Latine individuals to participate in a mentoring circle where we will take time to understand our history as a community in the United States, our personal journeys and culture and how systems impact our progress as individuals and a community.

A common theme we explored was that we need mentorship – ongoing mentorship from people that look like us and understand our culture and values. As I have been reflecting on my own journey, it’s clear that each of has a responsibility to support and mentor the next generation of Latine leaders.

My hope is that through mentorship and in our daily work to change systems, Latine professionals and leaders will sit at any table and confidently speak their truth, represent the needs of their children and communities, despite the eye rolls.

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As requested by the Legislature, Washington state’s Home Visiting Advisory Committee — consisting of home visiting providers, advocates, state agency partners and other allied professionals — recently outlined an ambitious path to strengthen the state’s home visiting system. Submitted to the Washington state Legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families, this plan makes essential recommendations to improve equity in the home visiting system, ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce and expand home visiting access to additional families.

Many of the recommendations identify strategies that are within the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ administrative power to implement while others will require additional investment from the Legislature.

Recommendation Highlights

A comprehensive overview of the recommendations is available on the Department of Children, Youth and Families website. In summary, the recommendations focus on the following areas of improvement:

Promote Equity: Washington must support a range of home visiting programs that meet the needs of diverse communities; ensure parent, community and provider voice is embedded in decision-making; and recruit and retain a workforce representative of families served.

Strengthen the Workforce: Home visitors have continued to provide essential supports to families, yet the workforce is under tremendous stress with higher than usual attrition in the past two years. The recommendations include investing in wages – including addressing racial and positional wage disparities; increasing access to professional development; and assessing home visitor caseloads and administrative burden.

Systems Improvements: To create a stable, sustainable and scalable home visiting system, the recommendations include completing a cost study to inform contracting to better reflect the true cost of the service; funding adjustments that promote equity; and streamlined data strategies.

Start Early Washington supports the recommendations submitted by the Home Visiting Advisory Committee. We are committed to working with our public and private sector partners to create comprehensive implementation plans with a strategic direction to build an equitable home visiting system that supports children and families in Washington state.

 

Excited to Learn More?

Check out our work in Washington state and stay connected; we’d love to grow our engagement with you.

Washington state capitol building in summer(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

A Reminder …

Start Early Washington publishes “Notes From Olympia” periodically throughout the legislative interim. During this time, we are replacing trivia with “deeper dives,” looking at innovations and issues that intersect with policy. This edition’s deep dive focuses on recommendations the Home Visiting Advisory Committee recently submitted to the Legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families to improve equity in the system, ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce and serve additional families.

A Look at the State’s Revenue Picture

Two important updates impacting our state’s budget outlook were released in June – the first being the caseload forecast (projecting the state’s spending commitments for entitlement programs) and the other is the revenue forecast (projecting how much money the state has available to spend).

Caseload Forecast

The June 15 Caseload Forecast provided updated projections from the last forecast in February related to a number of state programs. These include projections for K-12 enrollment, state prisons and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – all major cost drivers in the state budget. Forecast reports are used by the Governor to build his proposed budget as well as by legislative budget writers in their adoption of budget numbers.

Interestingly, K-12 enrollment has not yet bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. For specific early learning programs, the following changes are forecasted:

  • ECEAP enrollment is projected to increase by 2.1% from the February forecast, growing by 309 children, bringing the caseload to 15,199 in state Fiscal Year 2023 (state Fiscal Year 2023 runs from July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023). The forecast notes ECEAP enrollment has been impacted by COVID-19 and labor market developments. (It is fair to say COVID-19 was noted as a risk in every program forecast).
  • Working Connections Child Care participation is expected to decline by 4.2% from the February forecast (a decline of 1,105 families) bringing the caseload to 24,999 in state Fiscal Year 2023. The forecast accounts for the increased eligibility provided by the Fair Start for Kids Act. Risks to this forecast include COVID-19 and changing patterns in work and child care usage.
  • Special Education Preschool is projected to increase by 2.3% from the February forecast. The percentage of eligible children in this age group participating in Special Education preschool is projected to recover to exceed pre-pandemic levels from 2022-23 to 2024-25, but the actual caseload will not reach pre-pandemic levels due to declining birth rates.

Currently, the caseload forecast does not include a specific projection for the Transitional Kindergarten caseload. As a reminder, the 2022 supplemental budget included funding and a directive for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to complete an evaluation on a number of items related to Transitional Kindergarten (TK) by Dec. 1, 2023, including the number of school districts offering TK and the number of children participating in the program (to the extent data is available).

Revenue Forecast

If the remarks from State Economist Dr. Steve Lerch at the June 22 meeting of the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council were put into a “word cloud generator,” the words “caution” and “slowing” would likely come out the largest as they were the most frequently cited.

In short, while the state’s revenue continues to grow beyond previous projections, expected growth is accompanied by a number of asterisks. Washington state continues to experience stronger than projected revenue collections, but there is concern about where our economy is headed. The largest concerns are around inflation, rising gas prices, a drop in retail sales, a potential slowdown in residential construction and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict. The potential for a recession in our state is a possibility.

In terms of the official revenue forecast, revenues for the 2021-23 biennium (our current biennium) are up $1.457 billion over previous projections, and revenues for the 2023-25 biennium are up $632 million over previous projections. The variance between the two biennia demonstrates the expected slower, more moderate growth for our state’s economy.

Dr. Lerch also produces “alternative forecasts” including optimistic and pessimistic projections. The odds of the pessimistic forecasts for 2021-23 and 2023-25 outweigh the optimistic ones, and notably, the pessimistic forecast for 2023-25 projects a potential $6.2 billion drop in revenue.

Back to the proverbial word cloud – caution and slowing.

Primary Election Coming Soon

The state’s Aug. 2 primary election is quickly approaching, with ballots in the mail by July 15. Washington state has a top two primary system, which means the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Candidate filing week occurred from May 16-20 with hundreds of aspiring elected officials throwing their hats into the ring for offices ranging from Secretary of State to every seat in the House of Representatives as well as 24 of the 49 State Senate positions. The Secretary of State office is up for election in this “off year” because Secretary of State Steve Hobbs was appointed to replace Kim Wyman, who left her elected position post midterm to lead cybersecurity efforts for President Joe Biden.

Even before candidate filing week, we knew the makeup of the 2023 Washington state Legislature would be significantly different with more than 20 sitting lawmakers announcing they did not plan to run again for their current position. Many of these legislators are running for an open State Senate seat or the U.S. House of Representatives, but a significant number are retiring from elected service (at least for the 2022 election cycle). These retirements include a number of veterans such as the lead Capital Budget writer in the Senate David Frockt; House Majority Leader (and key budget negotiator) Pat Sullivan; and the long-time chair of the House Health Care Committee, Eileen Cody.

In addition to the retirement of veteran lawmakers, we saw an unusually high number of newer legislators, largely Members of Color, opt out of running for state legislative office in 2022. Newer lawmakers cited part-time employment reimbursement for what is really a full-time job, lack of support as well as frustration with the institution as impacting their decision to not return in 2023.

With some very crowded primary races, we will have a better picture of the November general election competitions after Aug. 2.

Ballot Initiatives

In the upcoming November general election, voters will also be asked to consider various initiatives. Initiative sponsors have until 5 p.m. on July 8 to submit signatures to the Secretary of State from at least 324,516 registered voters supporting the proposed initiative. The signature gathering process is time intensive, complex and costly.

One initiative that will not appear on voters’ ballots is the proposal to repeal the state’s recently enacted Capital Gains tax that was passed to support components of the Fair Start for Kids Act and other education related items. As reported in the June 10, 2022 Washington Wire, backers of the initiative decided not to pursue a ballot initiative, instead opting to place their bets on the legal challenge that is headed to the Washington State Supreme Court. The Wire piece cites the high costs of signature gathering as a reason for the decision.

Deep Dive: Home Visiting System Recommendations

The 2021 adopted state budget directed the Home Visiting Advisory Committee established in RCW 43.216.130 to submit recommendations to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Legislature by June 1, 2022, containing strategies for improving equity in the home visiting system, ensuring a skilled and sustainable workforce and serving additional families.

The Home Visiting Advisory Committee (HVAC) includes home visiting experts, government and health department representatives, tribal community liaisons, service providers and research and evaluation experts. Its current membership is listed on Page 27 of the HVAC recommendations. (I represent the Home Visiting Advocacy Coalition on this committee).

The HVAC worked over the past year to develop recommendations that focus on three areas: 1) Workforce Development; 2) True Cost of Services; and 3) Data Enhancement. The recommendations build on work done to date, center community voices and prioritize strategies to better support under-resourced rural communities and organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The HVAC is committed to a home visiting system that includes a range of home visiting models, programs and providers to ensure home visiting meets the needs of Washington state’s diverse communities and populations.

Implementing many of these recommendations is within DCYF’s purview; however, some will involve additional investment by the Legislature. While it will take time to implement the full array of recommendations, in its submission letter, the HVAC urged the Legislature and DCYF to take immediate action to address specific challenges facing the home visiting workforce, particularly related to compensation and the recruitment and retention of a workforce more representative of the children and families served.

Background on Home Visiting in Washington State

The recommendation document includes helpful background on the evolution of home visiting in our state, including the following “fast facts:”

  • The Home Visiting Services Account (HVSA) was created in statute in 2010, requiring all federal, state and private dollars the state receives for home visiting be deposited into this dedicated account.
  • Today, 44 local implementing agencies (also often referred to as “programs”) serve about 2,800 families statewide with funding through the HVSA.
  • An additional 6,000 families are served statewide with funding outside of the HVSA. The largest non-HVSA funding sources are Best Starts for Kids in King County and Early Head Start Home Based option.
  • Primary HVSA funding includes federal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV); the State-General Fund; Fair Start for Kids Act funding; a portion of I-502 cannabis dollars; and funding from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to serve families participating in that program.
  • Washington has adopted a “portfolio” approach with the HVSA funding supporting nine different home visiting models to meet the varying needs of families. Additional home visiting models are funded by non-HVSA sources.

Summary of HVAC Recommendations

The recommendations contain a key detailing estimated budgetary impacts and a timeline for each recommendation (immediate, short-, medium- and long-term). The accompanying document includes further detail on the rationale for the specific recommendation, what authorizing authority is needed to implement, as well as further detail on budgetary impacts and timing. Most of the recommendations are within DCYF’s authority to implement, and many will need additional funding from the Legislature. The HVAC expressly stated their interest that implementation of several of the recommendations go beyond just HVSA-funded home visiting slots and support the larger home visiting system.

Overarching Recommendation: Community-Supported Portfolio Approach

  • This overarching recommendation encourages DCYF to continue supporting a portfolio of models to meet community needs. (Again, a portfolio approach supports multiple home visiting models to meet the varying needs of families and communities).
  • Specifically, the recommendation includes the development of a framework for the selection of models that prioritizes investing in under-resourced rural communities and organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
  • DCYF should ensure selection of models and programs/decisions/design include deep community engagement that centers community, parent and provider voice.

Workforce Development Recommendations

Like other health and human service sectors, the home visiting workforce is under stress with higher than usual attrition in the past two years. Top concerns include:

  • Inability to recruit and retain staff due to low compensation.
  • Insufficient access to ongoing training and comprehensive professional development.
  • Balancing working directly with families and the lack of time to access professional development opportunities.

A study cited in the recommendations notes that 49% of the home visiting workforce in Washington earns less than $20/hour and the pay disparity is greater for home visitors identifying as Black, Indigenous or Person of Color.

Recommended strategies include:

  • Invest in home visiting workforce wages to specifically address racial and positional wage disparities.
  • Build in time for home visitors to access professional development that addresses the full needs of families (this could involve adjusting caseloads to account for time to engage in professional development opportunities).
  • Develop and implement strategies to recruit and retain a workforce more representative of families served.
  • Focus on workforce well-being with a focus on trauma-informed and healing-centered practices.

True Cost of Service Recommendations

Unlike many early learning programs, home visiting is not funded with a set rate structure. For example, newly contracted and recently expanded contracted local implementing agencies are often funded at higher levels compared to established local implementing agencies that are locked into years of static funding.

Recommended strategies include:

  • Complete the cost study that is underway within 12 months to inform the development of a customizable, community-driven cost model. It will be important to engage the Home Visiting Advisory Committee as well as HVSA-funded and non-HVSA funded programs in the cost study design and implementation.
  • Provide funding adjustments to local implementing agencies to bring equity and sustainability.

Data Enhancement Recommendation

Data is an area complicated by various funding streams and model-specific requirements. Many local implementing agencies cite the time intensive nature of the current data collection requirements as burdensome and have expressed concern that some data points are duplicative, or even unnecessary. Finally, there is interest in more transparency and disaggregation in the data collected.

Specific strategies include:

  • Alignment of data requirements, with particular attention to reducing duplicative or unnecessary requirements.
  • Increase capacity to manage and use data.
  • Develop a data infrastructure plan.

What’s Next?

Development of these recommendations was a collaborative effort between members of the HVAC as well as staff from DCYF and Department of Health (which manages the data function). A point of personal privilege – I would like to give a special shoutout to the DCYF and DOH teams and the HVAC members who stepped up to lead the recommendation development. A tremendous amount of work went into their development and identification of critically needed action steps.

So where do we go from here? With DCYF’s focus on prevention as a key component of its agency charge (amplified by the recent passage of landmark child welfare legislation), we expect DCYF to submit a prevention-oriented decision package this fall that includes home visiting for consideration in the Governor’s budget. We hope to see the more immediate recommendations that require state investment reflected in that decision package.

Home visiting advocates are digesting these recommendations and beginning the process of developing their 2023 legislative asks. What is clear is the urgent need to address the home visiting workforce and ensure the system is strengthened to better include the voices of communities, parents and providers alike so the system can expand to serve more families.

If you are interested in learning more about home visiting advocacy efforts, drop me an email; we would love to grow engagement with this important work.

Looking for more? Here’s a home visiting advocacy overview document sharing home visiting advocacy coalition membership, benefits of home visiting and the current state of services in Washington.

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On Friday, May 28th, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law legislation that will make it easier for many families involved in the child welfare system to access critical early care and education services, like the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and Early Intervention (EI). Public Act 102-926, formerly HB4242, was sponsored by Representative Lakesia Collins and Senator Julie Morrison.

“Children under the age of six make up nearly half of all kids involved in the DCFS system,” Ireta Gasner, Vice President of Illinois Policy at Start Early said. “Because early exposure to trauma, abuse and neglect can damage the architecture of the developing brain, the state must provide access to comprehensive, high-quality early childhood services, which research show can help mitigate the effects of trauma on our youngest learners.”

Among other key provisions, the legislation extends automatic eligibility to the state’s child care program for Youth in Care who are themselves parents.

“Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Law Project is excited to see this important legislation signed. For thirty years, we have heard from our clients about the importance of child care in ensuring the success of their families post-emancipation from the child welfare system,” said Niya Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Several of the policy proposals included in PA 102-926 were developed by a special working group of the state’s Early Learning Council, which produced recommendations for how to enroll more young children and families with child welfare involvement in high-quality early care and education programs. The working group, supported by staff from Illinois Action for Children and Start Early, included researchers, early childhood professionals, public agency staff, and parents. The committee’s recommendations, developed over the course of a year, included proposed changes to policy and procedure, improvements to data and research, enhanced and expanded supports to families, and strengthened cross-system collaboration.

“We want to thank the Early Learning Council, and especially those from the All Families Served subcommittee of the Council. The working group gathered input directly from parents regarding their experiences accessing critical early childhood services for their children; this engagement with families was instrumental in highlighting opportunities to improve and expand the Child Care Assistance Program and Early Intervention services to more families in the child welfare system,” said April Janney, President & CEO of Illinois Action for Children.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Children’s Home + Aid, Illinois Action for Children, and Start Early applaud the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker for approving such consequential legislation.

Below is an overview of the key provisions included in the new law:

  • Makes parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extended Family Support (EFSP) program automatically eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), regardless of income, employment, or education status. The extension of eligibility to the CCAP program for parenting youth in care and those on the EFSP program will make child care more accessible. (This provision becomes effective in July 2023.)
  • Makes infants and toddlers involved in the child welfare system automatically eligible for the Early Intervention (EI) program. Expanding eligibility to EI services for infants and toddlers involved in the child welfare system will ease the pathway into the program for a population of children and families who experience structural and situational barriers to services.
  • Requires DCFS to reimburse child care providers at the same rates paid to providers by IDHS for the CCAP program. Requiring parity in reimbursement rates between IDHS and DCFS will encourage more child care providers to accept reimbursement from DCFS, thus expanding the number of child care options for families involved in the child welfare system.
  • Requires DCFS to report out information on its child care program. The sharing out of data on the child care services provided by DCFS will help policymakers improve programs for families and providers.

Today more than ever, positive mental health is being challenged by an ongoing pandemic and societal changes. During Mental Health Awareness Month, organizations and individuals across the country are promoting positive mental health and current services available and advocating for new and improved policies for supporting the mental health of individuals and their families.

Infant/early childhood mental health (I/ECMH) is a strengths-based focus on the developing ability of young children to form close and secure relationships, experience, manage and express emotions, and explore and learn from their environments. At Start Early, we recognize the importance of I/ECMH and know that it is just as critical as our physical health.

Historically, national data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that indicators of positive mental health are present in most children. From 2016 – 2019, which notably is pre-pandemic, parents reported that their child mostly or always showed affection (97%), resilience (87.9%), positivity (98.7%) and curiosity (93.9%) among children ages 3-5 years.

However, new reports from the CDC and the Surgeon General have highlighted major increases in adverse mental health symptoms among children, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, President Joe Biden and his Administration have demonstrated recognition of the critical need for federal action supporting positive mental health. Both their approved Fiscal Year 2022 spending package and his latest budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023 released this spring shine a significant and unprecedented focus on mental health.

The federal Fiscal Year 2023 budget would allocate:

  • $38 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health grant program, which would expand access to evidence-based and culturally appropriate mental health services to young children ($30 million increase from previous year)
  • $35.4 million for Project LAUNCH, which works to ensure that the systems that serve young children have the resources and knowledge to foster their social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral development ($11.8 million increase from previous year)
  • $5.7 billion for health centers, including $85 million dedicated to embedding early childhood development experts in health centers
  • $1.7 billion for the Community Mental Health Block Grant, which addresses the needs of adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances ($895 million increase from previous year)
  • $150 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which supports the development and promotion of practices that support children exposed to trauma ($78.1 million increase from previous year)
  • $10 million for the Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression and Related Disorders, which increases access to perinatal and behavioral health care ($5 million increase from previous year)
  • $7 million for the Maternal Health Hotline ($4 million increase from previous year)

Federal legislation has also been introduced that would help meet the urgent mental health needs of families today, including:

  • Early Childhood Mental Health Supports Act (HR 6509), which would bolster mental health services for young children enrolled in Head Start and other early learning and care programs
  • Resilience Investment, Support and Expansion Trauma Act, “RISE” (S.2086), which would expand the trauma-informed workforce and increase critical mental health resources for communities, including community response and capacity and workforce development
  • Services and Trauma-informed Research of Outcomes in Neighborhoods Grants for (STRONG) Support for Children Act (HR 3793), which would support local health departments in addressing trauma and ensure services are equitably accessible to all children and families
  • Still to come is the Interagency Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care’s public report, which will outline best practices and recommendations for better federal support of children and families impacted by substance use disorders and trauma.

There is bipartisan support for wide-reaching and long-lasting reforms that can create a healthy foundation for all children starting at birth – reforms that should be built into any national mental health conversation.

Start Early is proud to partner with organizations nationwide to advance federal, state and local policy priorities that support I/ECMH and the mental health of families and caregivers. There is no better time to seize proposed opportunities that help ensure equitable access to mental health services and can set a child up for a lifetime of overall health and success.

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On behalf of Start Early and Raising Illinois, I am honored to share our new report, the Infant & Toddler Child Care Roadmap, and shine a light on the urgent need to expand high-quality child care options for families with children under age 3 in Illinois. The infant-toddler child care crisis is acute, as current capacity of licensed child care in the state provides access to only 17.4% of all infants and toddlers, and unfortunately, the problem has only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020.

In fall 2021, a cross-divisional team from Start Early sought out to answer the question “what would it take for Illinois child care providers to expand their services to more infants and toddlers?” Our team conducted a literature review, researched approaches from other states, and most importantly, directly engaged child care professionals to learn about the challenges they experience providing infant-toddler care and their ideas for solutions.

The final Roadmap includes a detailed summary of our findings, as well as seven community-informed recommendations for increasing access to infant and toddler care in Illinois. As anticipated, themes emerged around workforce issues and cost of care, but we also heard a lot about supports for children with disabilities and staff and families with mental health concerns, community engagement, negative perception of the early childhood field and data.

As I reflect on the many conversations we had with child care owners, teachers and Child Care Resource and Referral staff, I’m reminded of the incredible strength, perseverance and dedication of our child care community, especially considering the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was eye-opening to hear how physically and intellectually demanding infant-toddler care can be and how common it is for child care programs to only break even or lose money when operating infant-toddler classrooms, highlighting how unsustainable our current economic model of funding child care is. Many professionals we spoke to also shared that, despite what we know about the critical importance of the first three years of life, their work with infants and toddlers is often devalued. They acknowledged a prevailing sentiment among the general public and even within the field that it takes less skill and education to teach and care for babies and toddlers, and that what they do is “just babysitting.” Indeed, our research found that on average, teachers who work with infants and toddlers earn $1.40 less per hour than their counterparts working with preschool-aged children.

The professionals who care for and teach the youngest children, during the most significant time in their developmental trajectory, deserve more from us. Children and families deserve more too. We invite you to read the Roadmap and reflect on the words of the child care professionals who contributed to the project. What can you do to raise awareness about this issue and show support for child care professionals and families? How can you help advance the recommendations in the report? If you need help coming up with ideas, consider joining the Raising Illinois coalition.

I’ll close by offering gratitude to everyone who participated in our focus groups, surveys, community conversations and otherwise contributed to this project. We look forward to sharing more about the Roadmap in the coming weeks and months, and our progress toward advancing the recommendations. Stay tuned!

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While the home visiting field understands that parent leadership strengthens families and promotes optimal child well-being, engaging parent leaders in advocacy spaces is another crucial part of the equation for creating positive systems and policy change. As the home visiting field prepares for major federal advocacy opportunities like the upcoming reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV), there is a pressing need for home visiting advocates and policy makers to elevate the voices and advocacy of families and parents of young children. But where can parent advocates build their advocacy muscle, and learn about opportunities to engage in support for early learning programs in their communities?

Building on the National Home Visiting Summit Advocacy & Policy Community of Practice’s Advocacy 101 video series, Start Early is proud to share a new set of videos that highlights the skills parents bring to the table as powerful advocates and elevates opportunities to grow as leaders in advocating for home visiting and other early childhood issues impacting families.

We hope you enjoy these videos, and we invite you to share them with your networks. For additional discussion on how home visiting providers and policy advocates can bring parent leaders into meaningful partnership, check out the January webinar from the National Home Visiting Summit Advocacy & Policy Community of Practice. This webinar features a panel discussion with parent leaders about the key relationship building strategies that are foundational to creating space for parent voices.

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Last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Fiscal Year 2023 budget into law. The new budget includes increases in statewide investments in many core early learning and care supports for families with young children, roughly 200,000 of whom live in Chicago and stand to benefit from this additional funding.

These funds provide the opportunity to address longstanding early childhood workforce issues in the city that have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outlined below are several of the most notable impacts of Illinois’ newest budget on Chicago’s youngest learners and those who support their healthy development and education.

EARLY CHILDHOOD BLOCK GRANT: $54.4 Million Increase

Start Early’s state budget analysis includes a welcome increase of $54.4 million (10% increase) in state funding for preschool, evidence-based home visiting services and center-based infant-toddler programs funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). As is required by state statute, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will receive 37%, which translates to roughly $20 million of the $54.4 million increase previously mentioned.

Of this allocated funding, CPS has traditionally held on to 60% to fund their school-based pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) programs and sub-granted the remaining 40% to Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), which are used to fund home visiting and center-based services in community-based programs. This breaks down to roughly $12 million more in funding directly for CPS’ pre-K programs and an additional $8 million in funding for DFSS community-based early childhood programs.

Notably, CPS recently made free full-day pre-K available to every 4-year-old in the city, causing so much excitement among families that the Chicago Early Learning registration site crashed shortly after the application went live. With universal access to 4-year-old pre-K on the horizon, Start Early calls on CPS to turn its focus toward ensuring that children in these classrooms have teachers who are well-qualified and supported. One way to do so is fully funding the City College’s Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, which currently affords to only grant funds to fewer than half of the prospective early childhood teachers who apply each year.

With an increased need for early childhood professionals, the current funding level is inadequate for meeting the critical number necessary. In fact, a pre-pandemic analysis found that an estimated 3,000 new early childhood educators will be needed across the city by 2024 – a number that is undoubtedly now insufficient as a result of the pandemic and its heightened effects on the field.

In addition to supporting pathways to credentials for educators, Start Early also calls on the City of Chicago to prioritize using funds to encourage qualified staff to remain in the early childhood field. Incentives for improving staff retention in community-based early childhood programs must include increasing compensation for home visiting and center-based staff, as well as ensuring that educators in these settings have the resources and support necessary to meet the needs of children with disabilities and English Learners.

EARLY INTERVENTION: $7 Million Increase

This slight increase in state funding for Early Intervention (EI) comes at a time when child care providers and EI providers in Chicago report decreased access to services and long waitlists for children ages 0-3 with disabilities, as well as unmanageable caseloads for EI providers. It remains to be seen how the state will use these additional funds, but providers are calling for rate increases and other incentives to keep qualified individuals in the EI workforce.

HOME VISITING: $1 Million Increase

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is set to receive an additional $1 million to support its Healthy Families and Maternal Child Home Visiting programs. Start Early is advocating for IDHS to prioritize stabilizing the workforce before growing the reach of services through an increase in compensation for home visitors. A compensation increase is supported by the salary floor requirements in IDHS’s competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity, with a higher minimum salary for Cook County (which includes the City of Chicago) due to the area’s higher cost of living.

In addition to the state’s budget bill, the Illinois General Assembly passed HB4242, a bill that, if signed by Governor Pritzker, would extend automatic eligibility for Child Care Assistance for parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extend Family Support Program (EFSP), effective July 1, 2023. The bill would also extend automatic eligibility to EI for infants and toddlers in the child welfare system, effective July 1, 2022. Given the proportion of children in the state’s child welfare system who live in Chicago, this bill is likely to result in access to critical services for thousands of the city’s children.

Understanding how these additional funds in the above categories are being allocated by the state to support families with young children is especially important as we head into the City of Chicago’s budget season, work to identify gaps and re-emphasize recommendations for the city’s investment of local funds to best serve the city’s early learning system.

Read Start Early’s analysis of the state budget to learn about other important legislative measures impacting the state’s early care and education system.

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A Reminder…

Start Early Washington publishes Notes From Olympia periodically throughout the legislative interim. During this time, we are replacing trivia with “deeper dives,” looking at innovations and issues that intersect with policy. In this edition, our deep dive highlights equity efforts in home visiting. But don’t worry – trivia will be back.

Governor’s Action on Budgets and Bills

On March 31, Governor Jay Inslee completed action on the budget and policy bills passed by the Legislature during the 2022 session. Start Early Washington’s bill tracker has been updated to reflect the bills signed into law. You can find the enacted bills at the top of our resource page.

In one of his final bill actions, Governor Inslee issued a partial veto of the supplemental operating budget, ESSB 5693. Among the Governor’s vetoes was the rejection of the Legislature’s directive that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction establish rules for Transitional Kindergarten and that Transitional Kindergarten funding remain at the FY 2022 funding level.

In his veto message, the Governor explained that he could not support this budget proviso because it “…would limit school services for our young learners during and after the pandemic.” He went on to request that the Office of Public Instruction, “… upon the conclusion of a Washington State Institute for Public Policy study, work with agencies and stakeholders … to further define how school districts may grant exceptions to the uniform entry qualifications [for kindergarten] based on the ability, of the need, or both, of an individual student….”

A budget summary containing a complete list of investments is on Start Early Washington’s resource page.

New Faces Heading to Olympia in 2023

When the 2023 legislative session commences Jan. 9, 2023, we will see a number of new faces in the Senate and House of Representative Chambers. As of the most recent count, upward of two dozen current lawmakers have announced they do not plan to run to retain their current seats. These lawmakers fall into three categories – those retiring, those running for another elected office and newer legislators (largely members of color) who cite the long hours, inadequate compensation and the culture of the institution as reasons for not running again.

KUOW/NPR published an interview with Olympia correspondents Austin Jenkins and Shauna Sowersby to get their take on what these changes could mean. Jenkins and Sowersby highlighted the loss of institutional memory with retirement of longtime legislators as well as the opportunity their departures bring to diversify the Legislature and open up more leadership positions. In addition, the Seattle Times ran a column that focuses on how the structure of the legislative process disadvantages legislators of color.

Some of these lawmakers could change their minds and decide to run again. Candidate filing week is May 16-20, and we will have a better idea of how the races are shaping up after filing week.

Early Learning Facility Funding Announcement

On April 13, the Department of Commerce – in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families – announced $43.2 million in grants to 69 early learning facilities across 22 counties to increase the number of children served in ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care. The Department of Commerce received 143 applications requesting $72.9 million in funding.

A total of $80,000 was awarded to four programs for pre-design (maximum award amount of $20,000); a total of $1.68 million to 11 programs for minor renovations and pre-development (maximum award level of $200,000); and a total of $41.52 million was awarded to 54 programs for new construction/major renovations (maximum award amount of $1 million).

Funding for these grants came from the state budget adopted in 2021. The budget recently signed by Governor Inslee contains an additional $23.137 million in competitive grants and $18.5 million in one-time federal funding for minor renovations. The Department of Commerce will start the distribution of this new funding shortly.

Deep Dive: Equity in Home Visiting and ParentChild+

Parent clapping as child learns to walk

Home visiting and supporting strong families in Washington

Home visiting is a voluntary, proven way to support and strengthen families in the first years of life. Trained home visitors and parents develop a trusting relationship and work together over several years to address prenatal and infant care, child development and parenting skills. It is a multi-generational approach that has the power to positively change the trajectory of an entire family.

Research shows that home visiting programs increase children’s literacy and high school graduation rates, as well as how much parents read to their children. In addition, home visiting programs increase positive birth outcomes for children, improve the likelihood that families have a primary care physician and decrease rates of child abuse and neglect.

Washington state offers nine different home visiting models, each with different outcomes and approaches. Roughly 9,000 families in Washington state participate in home visiting services funded by federal, state, local and private dollars.

Start Early Washington’s home visiting team works in concert with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and other public and private funders in the areas of home visiting, family engagement, program implementation and community service coordination. Grounded in a strengths-based approach, our team (many of whom were home visiting program participants AND home visitors themselves) supports home visiting programs statewide with coaching, consultation, training and general professional development to ensure the highest quality of services to families.

What is ParentChild+?

ParentChild+ is one of the home visiting models supported by Start Early Washington. ParentChild+ has been operating in Washington for 16 years, reaching over 1,400 families and 31 family child care (FCC) providers annually through 17 program sites in King, Yakima and Pierce counties. Supported with funding from the United Way of King County, Best Starts for Kids, the City of Seattle, the Stolte Family Foundation and DCYF, ParentChild+ focuses on reaching families living in under resourced communities with culturally relevant, community-based early learning experiences.

ParentChild+ is an evidence-based school readiness model, working directly with parents as well as Family Child Care and Family Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers, which preempts the opportunity gap by providing young children and their parents with culturally relevant learning tools and skills. The program reaches families where they are, with two different models:

  • Core Model: 92 twice-weekly 30-minute home visits to support healthy development and educational success. Local partner sites prioritize hiring community-based early learning specialists who share a linguistic and cultural background with families. Early learning specialists provide families with high quality learning tools to stimulate parent-child interaction, develop language, early literacy, social and emotional skills, connect families to community resources and build school readiness. It’s very common that participants go on to become early learning specialists themselves.
  • Family Child Care: The ParentChild+ FCC model is a 24 week program providing twice-weekly visits to participating FCC and FFN providers. It is an innovative professional development and enrichment approach because it takes place in providers’ homes during their workday. Providers can practice new skills with the children in their care in real time, under the mentorship of an early learning specialist.

ParentChild+ and Race Equity

Since its founding 57 years ago, ParentChild+ has aimed to equalize access to quality early childhood education and support to ensure school readiness. As part of its ongoing commitment to advance racial equity in ParentChild+, the following are some values inherent in its approach:

  • Carefully choose literature and materials for home visits that portray multiple cultures and match family values. Home visiting professionals hold great power in selecting materials that allow families to celebrate who they are, including cultural norms, skin color, hair texture and so much more.
  • Biases shape our worldview. Identify, unpack and address internal and external biases to ensure the highest-quality and most inclusive services to families.
  • Support families in speaking their home language. Speaking to children in their home language is a powerful factor in building and retaining secure parent-child attachments. Embedded within this is the value of hiring staff who reflect the families served.

Developing a pipeline of FCC providers through ParentChild+ engagement

Recently, Start Early Washington received a grant from the Department of Commerce to facilitate a partnership with four other organizations to engage in a community planning process to explore the best ways to create a pipeline of potential FCC providers using ParentChild+’s Core Model and FCC Models as the basis for engagement, outreach, training and support.

As a community-based model focused on working with families and FCC providers from diverse communities and matching them with early learning specialists who share their cultural and linguistic heritage, ParentChild+ is uniquely suited to support the development of new, high quality providers in historically underserved communities.

Partners in this project include Atlantic Street Center (ASC), a Seattle-based ParentChild+ provider focused on reaching African American families; Horn of Africa Services (HOAS), an agency focused on serving African immigrant and refugees in Seattle; Child Care Resources (CCR) which, among its other roles, supports FCC providers and the vast Family, Friend and Neighbor Network in King and Pierce counties; and the ParentChild+ National Office which supports the implementation of the ParentChild+ program

The Department of Commerce grant supports a robust community planning process, utilizing this diverse network of partners, to explore the best ways to create a pipeline for FCC providers in historically underserved communities, many of which were already child care deserts pre-COVID-19. This deep partnership is uniquely situated to examine the possibility of building expanded networks of FCC providers from among parents in the community who have already experienced coaching and support on being their children’s first teachers and now are ready to share their knowledge and skills with other children and families in their communities.

The focus of the project is on:

  1. Identifying successful ways to build a robust FCC provider pipeline utilizing assets in the community.
  2. Building a career path for ParentChild+ parents.
  3. Providing much needed child care in under-resourced communities across King County and Washington state.

Have a suggestion for an Interim Deep Dive? We would love to hear it!

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The Illinois General Assembly approved the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) spending plan early Saturday morning. We expect Governor J.B. Pritzker will sign the package into law in the coming days.

The final budget (HB900) includes a welcome increase of $54.4 million (10.0% increase) in state funding for preschool, evidence-based home visiting services, and center-based infant-toddler programs funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

It also includes $7 million (6.4% increase) in additional funding for the Early Intervention program, fully restoring the FY 22 funding cut. The legislature also appropriated $1 million (6.0% increase) in new funding for Illinois’ Department of Human Services’ evidence-based home visiting programs, the first funding increase in nearly 20 years.

“This budget makes investments in several early childhood programs, including home visiting, and restores state funding of Early Intervention – which are key supports for our state’s youngest learners and their families,” Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy, said. “Approving a state spending plan requires difficult and critical decisions, and this year, the Pritzker Administration and the General Assembly made decisions that prioritize services for families with young children.”

State funding in the FY 2023 budget (HB900) includes:

  • A $54.4 million (10%) increase in state funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant at ISBE
  • A $7 million (6.4%) increase in state funding for the Early Intervention (EI) program at IDHS
  • A $536,000 (5.3%) increase for Healthy Families at IDHS
  • A $480,000 (7%) increase in state funding for Maternal Child Home Visiting (formerly Parents Too Soon) at IDHS
  • Level-funding (0.0%) for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) at IDHS, though the administration has committed to increase provider reimbursement rates twice over the next fiscal year
  • A new $2.0 million appropriation to IDHS for deposit into the Off-Hours Child Care Program Fund (see below for further details)
  • A $2.5 million appropriation to the Office of State Treasurer for the Children’s Savings Account Program.

In addition, Start Early and its partners have strongly advocated all year for the need to increase compensation for the early childhood professionals working for community-based organizations. We strongly encourage ISBE and IDHS to allocate a sizeable portion of these funding increases to boost compensation for teachers and staff working in child care centers, home visitors and Early Intervention professionals.

Several other important measures impacting the early care and education system (and the families that use it) have been approved by the legislature, including:

  • HB4242 (Collins, Morrison) – a bill that:
    • Extends automatic eligibility to CCAP for parenting youth in care and families on the DCFS Extend Family Support Program (EFSP)
    • Extends automatic eligibility to EI for infants and toddlers in the child welfare system
    • Requires DCFS to pay child care providers the same reimbursement rates IDHS pays its providers through the CCAP program
    • Requires DCFS to report data on its child care program
  • HB4999 (Gabel, Villanueva) – a bill that codifies into state law the timeline (30 days) by which services for families in the EI program must be initiated after a service plan has been approved
  • HB1571 (Manley, Glowiak Hilton) – a bill that creates the Off-Hours Child Care Program at IDHS to help first responders and other workers identify and access off-hours child care
  • SB3149 (Villanueva, Guzzardi) – a bill that requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and higher education institutions to provide information about the Child Care Assistance Program and the federal dependent care to students eligible for Monetary Award Program grants
  • SB3032 (Fine, Morgan) – a bill that prohibits institutions of higher education from withholding academic transcripts from current or former students because of any unsettled debts with the institution.
  • SB157 (Hastings, Zalewski) – a revenue bill that, among other things, expands the Earned Income Credit benefit for all filers; extends eligibility to the EIC for those aged 18-25, those above 65, and ITIN filers; and provides a one-time child tax credit